Patenting nature – are you for or against?

Conventionally bred plants used to be outside the scope of corporate control because you weren’t able to patent nature. This is one of the reasons why GMOs are still in existence, despite concerns over safety and a growing number of unwilling consumers. The European Patent Office (EPO) appears to be assisting further corporate takeover of seeds and food crops by allowing the patenting of conventionally bred plants.  The EPO has recently issued a patent covering the seeds, plants and fruit of a watermelon bred by ‘crossing and selection’. This is a standard plant breeding method normally excluded from patenting under the European Patent Convention.  Christoph Then for the Coalition of No Patents On Seeds acknowledges, “The lack of oversight at the EPO is now so great that even procedural errors are becoming an excuse to grant such patents".

According to GeneWatch UK, the EPO has granted a total of 88 patents to conventionally bred (non GM) plants since 1990.  Two million of you have signed the Avaaz petition calling on the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation to close the loopholes that allow corporations to patent plant varieties and conventional breeding methods. If you’ve not had your say, please sign and share widely.

Taste appears linked to habit rather than health

A University of Minnesota study in the Journal of Dairy Science entitled: Fatty acid profiles, meat quality, and sensory attributes of organic versus conventional dairy beef steers has found that the meat from organic grain-fed dairy steers was the favourite for flavour when compared with both conventionally fed dairy steers and organic grass fed dairy steers. Whilst the grass fed beef was the least favourite for flavour, it had healthiest fatty acid profile (a larger amount of omega 3 fats and a lower ratio of omega 6: omega 3).

Taste preferences often depend on what people are used to. Grass fed meat, due to the vastly different fatty acid profile as compared to grain fed meat, is often described as leaner, richer and ‘gamier’. Other differences in nutrient profile have been found. The authors of a 2010 US study said: “Research spanning three decades suggests that grass-based diets can significantly improve the fatty acid (FA) composition and antioxidant content of beef, albeit with variable impacts on overall palatability”.

Does different also mean safe when it comes to GMO crops?

Independent published studies have revealed significant differences between GMO crops and their non-GMO parent variety. Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji’s article entitled New GMO Studies Demonstrate ‘Substantial Non-Equivalence', published by the Institute of Science in Society, highlights the key areas of concern.  In the article, Dr Sirinathsinghji argues that these studies have ‘made a mockery’ of the regulatory principle of GMO ‘substantial equivalence’, which has “facilitated approvals of GMOs with practically no protection for public health and the environment”.  The study exposes “a permissive regulatory regime that has failed miserably in protecting public health and biodiversity”.

UK hospital food not even fit for pigs

An anonymous head chef who has worked for 30 years at a UK National Health Service hospital in South West England has revealed some disturbing facts about the hospital food he is obliged to dish up for sick and frail patients. Despite having over 30 years of culinary skill and experience, all that is now required from this chef is to unload plastic trays from a freezer and slide them onto racks inside a ‘regen trolley’! After 90 minutes of reheating, they’re dished up to the sick and vulnerable. In his own words, “I'm reheating a bland lump of frozen meat - and a measly portion, at that. It's lying in a pool of water with its flavours slowly being washed out; when it's heated through, the ends will curl up and go brown at the edges. Not surprisingly, lots of it will be left on the plate once the patients have finished eating, and end up in the bin”.

To add insult to injury, he’s now the recipient of angry letters from patient’s relatives who describe the meals he’s forced to serve up as “disgusting” or not even fit to feed pigs.

French ban targets GMO maize – again!

The French are preparing to restore a GMO ban in advance of preparations by farmers for Spring planting.  An earlier ban in on Monsanto’s Mon810 GMO corn in March 2012 was overturned last year, when a French court ruled that the ban had no legal basis.

The draft proposition by the ruling Socialist party would target all GMO maize and any new varieties still in planning, including the new Pioneer 1507 maize. Pioneer 1507 maize was recently given a seal of approval by the European Commission.


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